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Omega the Unknown #7

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2008
By: Steven M. Bari

Jonathan Lethem & Karl Rusnak
Jonathan Lethem & Karl Rusnak
Marvel Comics
I take chances every once and a while at my local comic shop. Sometimes I pick up a previously undiscovered comic and I’m pleased, surprised, or exhilarated. Sometimes I’m completely downtrodden and/or pissed off.

So as I clasped issue #7 of Omega the Unknown I thought, what an apt title for a new risky adventure. Will I like it? Will I know what’s going on? Will I continue reading as well as pick up all the previous issues so as to catch up?

No. No. And No.

Why? This book is page after page full of unappealing and dreary characters that speak clumsy verbiage, which shows comedic and dramatic potential but fails to act on it. I know it does not help that I jumped onto this limited more than halfway in, but still the issue itself falters in even entertaining my continued interest.

Basically, Lethem is writing a lackadaisical, superhero mythos story. Unlike Steve Gerber, who created the character along with Mary Skrenes, Lethem does not provide any emotional or philosophical overtones to the narrative. A scene between the protagonist and antagonist would have had poignancy and meaning if Gerber had written it--providing captions of prose to elevate the importance of these two men sitting in a movie theater two seats apart.

Instead, the antagonist is impotent and laughable when clearly he is supposed to be threatening. Similarly, the lackluster humor of these characters speaking while the movie is in progress is completely lost with the inane, unrealistic remarks from fellow moviegoers such as, “Would you please all shut up?” If this were a real movie theater in New York, they’d be stabbed by street toughs or torn asunder by movie-hipsters!

Yet, this issue does have two saving graces. One is the amazingly layered prologue by underground comic artist Gary Panter. The other is remarkably adept explanation of franchise theory.

First, Panter’s work is, as always, worth viewing. For those of you unfamiliar with his name, you will undoubtedly know his style from Panter’s set designs on the seminal children’s show Pee-Wee Playhouse.

His expressionistic, scratchy art can be described as a twelve-year-old child’s imitation of Jack Kirby, but with narrative and emotive capabilities that are equal to Kirby's. This style allows him to tell a story visually--evoking the necessary emotions while embracing a rough but rewarding approach. Out of the entire 22 pages of this comic, his six text-less pages contain the strongest and most engaging story.

The other worthwhile note is the intriguing analysis of franchising as compared to the possible villainous activity of the protagonist’s college. As Alex Island discloses his concern over his fellow student’s bizarre robotic projects, his friend Felton immediately dives into its analogy to how businesses franchise out stores to make money.

“Franchising means you get other people to build your outlets for you,” Felton explains. “They do the work, they take risk--while you expand your brand all over the place.”

Now that’s a perfect plan for an evil superpower to expand his evil empire! It’s a brilliant little touch of reality to this superhero story that sadly the rest of the book is missing.

I know what you’re gonna say. “Wait for the trade paperback! It will read better in one whole book!”

I hate to burst your collective bubbles, guys, but that’s a crock of you know what. Serialized fiction, especially those with pictures included, should be engaging and appealing to new readers no matter what chapter. Lethem and Rusnak aren't bad writers, but they do not introduce new readers to their story in any way--be it a formal introduction or emotional resonance.

If they aren’t willing to give a care, why should I? 'Nuff said.



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